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Protect your pipes this winter


Winter’s here again and as temperatures start to drop, it’s important to keep your pipes protected from the cold.

That’s because burst pipes, caused by water freezing and expanding, account for a large number of escape of water claims we receive every winter.

Burst pipes can cause considerable disruption to your everyday life and the financial cost can run into thousands of pounds. In severe cases you might need to move out of your home while repairs are carried out. And you could find that your home insurance premium increases as a result of a claim.

How to protect your pipes

As pipes are most likely to burst during cold weather spells and when homes are left empty, it’s worth taking the following steps to help protect them and give yourself some extra peace of mind.

  1. If you’re going away and the temperature’s likely to drop below freezing, keep your home’s central heating at a minimum of 15°C (59F) for a few hours each day.
  2. Insulate your loft, cold water storage tank and the water pipes in your home’s attic and crawl spaces. These exposed pipes are the most likely to freeze so the more insulated they are, the better protected they’ll be.
  3. Look for small gaps around the areas where your TV, cable or telephone lines come through your wall and seal them up to stop any cold air getting through.
  4. As kitchen and bathroom cabinets can keep warm air from reaching pipes under sinks and adjacent outside walls, keep the cabinet doors open when you can to allow warm air to circulate.
  5. Leave your loft hatch door open, as allowing warmer air to reach the loft can stop your water tank freezing.
  6. If you’re going away for a long time over the winter, it may even be worth draining your system completely.
  7. If you’re going away, ask a friend or neighbour to check your house once a week to make sure everything’s in order.

What happens when a pipe bursts?

Many people leave their homes over Christmas to visit family or have a holiday in the sun. Unfortunately this is often the time when we experience severe weather and subzero temperatures, leaving your home and pipes vulnerable to the cold.

Below is a typical example of the damage that can be caused by an escape of water while a home is unoccupied.

Cause

While homes are empty over Christmas and New Year, periods of severe weather can put the heating and drainage systems under stress. Central heating pipes, tanks and shower valves are full of water which can expand as the water turns to ice and cause the pipe to burst. If water escapes for a prolonged period of time, it can easily cause extensive damage throughout the home.

Damage

If a large volume of water escapes, it can eventually overwhelm the floor and if in an upstairs room, it can bring down ceilings in many of the downstairs rooms. The water can soak into skirting boards and other woodwork, causing them to warp. Wall plaster is often affected and in many cases will have to be completely removed. Carpets and furniture can also all be damaged and possibly ruined, as well as any personal possessions.

Alternative accommodation

In some cases, if there's a large amount of damage, you may even have to move out of your home. Your home insurance should pay for alternative accommodation and cover the cost while repairs are carried out.

Recovery

  • Drying equipment can be installed and independent building surveyors will strip out damaged contents.
  • Specialist furniture restorers can be employed to inspect the damage and remove the pieces capable of restoration to specialists.
  • Any of the rooms that have been damaged will have to be refurbished and new furniture fitted.
  • Repairs to the building structure will often have to be carried out, including drying.
  • Any free-standing furniture that's been damaged will need to be replaced or repaired.

Taking precautions is the best way to protect yourself from burst pipes during the winter but things could still go wrong. That's why it's important to protect yourself by taking out home insurance with a trusted provider.

John Lewis Home Insurance provides cover for loss or damages caused by fire, flood, subsidence, theft or other specified causes. If you choose our Premier Cover, Accidental Damage Cover is included as standard.

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John Lewis Insurance is a trading name of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England (No. 233462). John Lewis plc is an appointed representative of Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc. John Lewis Home Insurance is underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc (No. 93792). Registered in England and Wales at St. Mark's Court, Chart Way, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 1XL. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (Financial Services Register No. 202323). Calls may be recorded and monitored.

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